Thai New Year, or Songkran Festival, is celebrated every year between the 13th and 15th of April. A lively festival, it often involves lots of partying and drinking, which is also why Thailand has become a popular gap-yah destination. Thailand also has a beautiful culture and, most importantly, delicious food.
When I received an email inviting me to try out the new Banana Tree branch in Oxford to celebrate Thai New Year, I couldn’t have been more excited. As most of you know, I’ve been on my year abroad since July 2015 but it just so happened that I was visiting Oxford that weekend so this was a case of perfect timing! I don’t eat out a huge amount when I’m at university because I’m living on a student budget but for birthdays and other special occasions, we often head to the restaurants on George Street. Banana Tree has just opened on this road, which is a great location in the centre of town, where there are lots of pubs, restaurants, theaters etc.
I made a reservation for 7pm for me and my boyfriend and when we arrived there were already quite a few people inside. We were welcomed by a waitress and that manager who led us to our table on an area of slightly raised flooring. There were quite a few other couples around us on this level and then larger groups and families on the larger tables too so this restaurant really caters for everyone.
We started off with cocktails (how else do you start the evening.. ) and there’s quite a long list to choose from. You can opt for classics like a long island ice tea, or go for something more exotic. We got four cocktails between us, including a Lychee Martini, a Passion Fruit Cooler, the Thai New Year special and one other. All the cocktails we ordered were fruit based and delicious. Both my boyfriend and I were already thinking that perhaps this could be a good place to go for casual drinks or host a birthday party later in the year. They have a happy hour deal where you can get two of the same cocktail for £7.50 which isn’t bad at all is a competitive price even with the student discount offers around the city.
I hadn’t even started my first cocktail before our dishes arrived, which was only about 10 minutes after ordering, which is really quite impressive! The menu is extensive with lots of choices and I spent way too long trying to pick a dish. They’ve got thai currys with rice, noodle dishes, meat dishes and, surprisingly, bo buns! I’ve only ever encountered bo buns in Paris and it’s a sort of noodle salad with a base of leaves with vermicelli noodles and topped with some form of tender meat and crunchy vegetables. This has quickly become one of my favourite dishes for a fairly ‘healthy’ lunch and I was happy to see it’s available in England now too.
I tend to see bo buns as a lunch dish so for this meal I chose “The Legendary Rendang”, a famous specialty from the Minangkabau Hill Tribe of Indonesia. This was a slow cooked fragrant curry dish with a toasted coconut based sauce. The menu said this was the undisputed ‘King Of Curries’, so I had to try it! I was surprised by just how large the plate was when it arrived; I had a bowl of the beef curry, some rice, salad, sweetcorn cakes and a huge prawn cracker. The beef was really tender and full of flavour so I was really happy with my choice of dish. There was actually so much food that my boyfriend finished off my beef curry for me (and I eat quite a lot..) That’s how big it was!
My boyfriend opted for the Banana Tree Spiced noodles, which smelled amazing. It contained a mix of both prawns and chicken, as well as an abundance of crunchy vegetables, eggs and wheat noodles. Served with sweet corn cakes, Indo Viet crackers as well, this dish was equally enormous!
By this point I was already incredibly full but my second “dessert” stomach kicked in. I couldn’t decide between the Thai pancakes (pandan pancakes filled with coconut) or the Warm Chocolate Indo-Fondant. Of course, I ended up picking the chocolate fondant, which was served with a ball of coconut ice cream and added the perfect dose of sweetness to the end of our meal. It has quite a thick, creamy texture which contrasted perfectly with the ice cream. My boyfriend chose the Banana Frotiteroles, also served with ice cream and a splodge of chocolate sauce, which were also very tasty.
All in all, my meal came to £72 for two (huge) mains, two desserts and four cocktails, which was really quite good in my opinion. It could be because I’m used to Paris prices now but I left feeling very full and thoroughly satisfied, which is the most important thing. We had a really friendly waitress called Roxy who made sure that our drinks were always filled and was happy to recommend dishes. I’d highly recommend Banana Tree if you’re looking for a reasonably priced Thai restaurant for either a date or a group meal, and the Oxford branch in particular where the staff are all super friendly!
Find out more about Banana Tree and find one near you on their website here:
Are you a fan of Thai food? What’s your favourite dish? If you have any Thai restaurants to recommend in London/Oxford/Paris, I’m all ears!
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*A complimentary voucher was received in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.